The passing of former Prime Minister Edward Seaga provides a wonderful opportunity to not only reflect on his contribution to Jamaica’s development, but also to say thanks.
As a public servant for over forty years, I have had many opportunities to interact with Mr Seaga while he served as Prime Minister and as Leader of the Opposition. These interactions were opportunities for me to learn and to appreciate the depth of his knowledge and experience. As Minister responsible for Planning, Mr Seaga was instrumental in framing the legislation transforming the then National Planning Agency, established in 1972, into the Planning Institute of Jamaica in 1984. When I served as Director General of the Institute between 1995 and 2009, he demonstrated a very deep and continuous interest in our public policy work in general, and national planning in particular. He was passionate about the need to build an accurate economic and social database for the country. The PIOJ worked with him on such a task while he was a Senior Visiting Fellow at the University of the West Indies.
Mr Seaga was particularly interested in the building of institutions for an effective state. It was partly for that reason I was happy to have invited him to address a PIOJ conference on Institutional Improvements for Development Planning in November 2005. This was one of the events leading up to the development of “Vision 2030 Jamaica”. He took the opportunity to not only remind us of some of the critical issues in long-term planning, but also highlighted some of the themes of his lifelong work. These included the importance of good and accurate data in planning; the central importance of adequate high-quality human capital for growth; the critical role agriculture has to play in Jamaica’s development; and the vital role of education and culture in national development.
Not only did Mr Seaga contribute to the growth of the PIOJ, he was a source of personal encouragement and protection for the institution. It is therefore fitting that we join in paying tribute to his tremendous contribution to Jamaica’s development and to celebrate the positives of his life’s work.
Wesley Hughes, CD, JP, PhD
Former Director General, PIOJ (1995–2009)